John C. Fremont
One of the most noted names in the story of the West is that of John C. Fremont. He was sometimes called "The Pathfinder." Many years of his life were spent in exploring the plains and the mountains. He first became famous as leader of an exploring expedition which crossed Nebraska in 1842. Starting June 10th from the mouth of the Kansas River, he followed the Oregon Trail to the forks of the Platte. Here his party divided, one party going by way of the North Platte, the other by way of the South Platte, both meeting at Fort Laramie. From there Fremont followed the Oregon Trail to the South Pass and on August 15th climbed to the top of what has since been called Fremont's Peak at the summit of the Rocky Mountains.
Coming down the Platte river in boats, Fremont's party was wrecked in the great canyon of the Platte near where Casper, Wyoming, is located. Saving what they could they followed the Platte valley and reached the trading post of Peter A. Sarpy at Bellevue on October 1st.
The next year on May 29th Fremont left the mouth of the Kansas River and took a more southerly route through northern Kansas, and on June 25th crossed into Nebraska in what is now Hitchcock County. After following the Republican valley for some days, he crossed to the South Platte and thence over the mountains to Salt Lake and California.
Fremont saw the great future of the West more clearly than other explorers. He saw in Nebraska the rich soil, the abundant grass and the beautiful wild flowers. To his eyes this region looked like a garden, instead of a desert, as it had been represented by many.
Nebraska probably owes its name to Fremont. In his report to the secretary of war, he calls our great central river by its Indian name Nebraska, or Flat Water, and the secretary of war afterwards suggested Nebraska as a good name for the new territory.
Fremont believed in the future Pacific Railroad and tried to find an easy, natural route on which it might be built. He became senator from the new state of California in 1850, and candidate for President in 1856. He died July 13, 1890, having lived to see the western wilderness which he had explored filled with millions of people, great cities built on the plains and in the mountains and several Pacific railroads where he had dreamed of one.
One of the most thriving cities of Nebraska proudly bears Fremont's name. The great United States dam at the canyon of the Platte River where Fremont and his party were wrecked in 1842 is called 'The Pathfinder," and great canals from its mighty reservoir carry the waters from the Rocky Mountains far out on the plains of western Nebraska, making them blossom everywhere in memory of this great explorer who had confidence in the development of the West.